Monday, June 29, 2009

Sourdough Instructable

sd-buttered-sliceI found a nice instructable for Sourdough Bread, with lots of pictures. The blog post from

Personally, I have tried the "Dutch oven" method with in a cast iron pan with a lid but not everyone has one.
I prefer "freeform breads", with a thick crust: I preheat my oven to the max temperature and use a tray with ice cubes: I posted the receipe here.

I also keep using the same sourdough: I keep it in a litre glass jar and refresh it every week. If it smells too much, I throw away half and refresh again. If it turns orange or green, you would have to throw it away and start again.

Over the last 2 WE, I've added 2 handfuls of lineseed and another 2 of sunflower seeds, and used either my favourite Shipton Mill's  "malthouse" flour I got from Olivers in Kew or the Doves malthouse flour (Waitrose).

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ramblings on the US healthcare systems

I could not help myself to commentBoing Boing - A directory of wonderful thingss on this post: Health insurance versus health - Boing Boing

Just some facts:
- the US spends almost twice as much on health (about 16% of the GDP) than France
- yet, France has "free" care and a much higer life expectancy (one of the highest in the World, certainly the highest in France or top 3, depending on the stats.
- there is a good basic service, supplemented by US style private insurance
- you can also go to a commercial hospital, go see a GP privately, etc...

In the end, you have to rationally accept that some services (street lighting) will never be profitable and should stay public. Not only this, but you should also accept that the nation overall has to pay for a minority (education is another example).

For others, it is debatable whether competition is a great benefit for the consumer to enrich shareholders if prices aren't going to go down. The failure of UK rail privatisation, with higher prices and not much other benefits, is an example.
But deregulation was good for telecoms -remember those international call charges 30 years ago? Do you think we'd have the iPhone and Blackberries if telephones were ran by the Bells and AT&T?

Back to insurance, I'm left to wonder why Americans still accept an unfair and expensive system?
My best guess is it's the weight of lobbies in Washington, where policy has ceased a long time to be in favour of the majority of citizens.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What is the use of roadside census?

Root of the problem: traffic crawls down Godley Lane into Halifax as the surveyors question driversI happenned to be caught in tailbacks caused by a roadside census, like this one: Roadside census causes rush-hour chaos - Halifax Today.
It was in Lionel road, a busy cut-through to the M4 from Kew Brige.

I'm not sure what is the point of delaying people who already have a long journey?

They did not stop me, but if they did I would have declined to answer: no thanks to more traffic jams!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Are London Taxis and tube really the best

London taxisThe BBC reports today that London's taxis [have been] voted world's best. The article is quite un-interesting overall, with a quote from the Licenced Taxi Drivers Association and a reference to the source at the very end: a survey of 1400 travellers commissionned by It just says they're not particularly good value for money.

Unfortunately, there's nothing on their web site to check on the methodology and the sample demographics, etc, which reminds me of another bogus award where the Tube voted Best Metro in Europe. When the news came out, in disbelief I tried to check the source but coult not find it, but thankfully London Underground pinpointed it to "a small group of Londoners who did vote for the Tube".
What all the newspapers failed to report from these bogus awards is that the best metro was Singapore's SMRT and the best passengers experience was Seoul's -two relativement recent transportation systems indeed.

Trying to get on Crowded TubePersonally, while I agree the London Black Cabs are courteous and knowledgeable (quite unlike the rude and ignorant Parisian or New York drivers) and set a benchmark for the industry, the London Underground is dirty, saturated and not running well. For instance, the drain (Waterloo & City Line) has been CLOSED in 2006 for 6 months to refurbish signalling but I still get a text message saying it's to blame for this line not running at least once a month.

Where the tube could easily win an award though would be when it comes down to its ticket price: it's probably the most expensive in the world?

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Ready for the pizza party!

I just came up with a new entertaining concept!
As I bake bread almost every week, I just thought about doing a pizza party -it's the same dough after all!
It's been a hit with the littlelings... and adults too.

- dough mix: 1 kg strong white bread flour, 35g fresh levure, 3 tbs olive oil, 450 water
- knead (see previous posts on bread)
- let prove for 2h, cover with linen
- shape some dough balls, about the size of a tennis ball
- let prove 1h
- set-up all the ingredients, see picture
--> creme fraiche, chopped oignons, lardons
--> origan
--> tomato passata
--> seafood mix
--> chorizo, ham
--> mozarella, blue chees, goat cheese, emmental (not cheddar!), parmesan for a 4 cheese pizza
--> anchovies, capers, olives
--> spinach, mushrooms, peppers, fresh basilic (add at the end, just like rocket)
--> fresh and cooked eggs
--> etc, check the picture

Start with baking small sough balls, about the size of a wallut, dunked in oil and chopped gardlic for the aperitif. You can also bake some brushettas by stretching some of your dough balls, brushing with olive oil and adding chopped tomatoes, oregano and basil, salt and pepper
You will then need two baking trays, abundantely floured or with a silicon cooking mat. Each guest makes their own piza and bakes it in a very hot oven. Just keep in mind that the best pizze are often the simplest one -avoid the dog's dinner by setting the example!

- passata, anchovies, capers, seafood, origan, pepper (no cheese on seafood for traditional Italian pizze though I am not too sure about where this rule comes from)
- four cheese (see above), on a tomato base, no salt!
- creme fraiche (no tomato), oignons, parsley, pepper (no salt)
- tomato base, chorizo, mozzarella, peppers
- Florentina: tomato base, lardons raw egg (w/o the shell ;-), capers